Stress eating is the type of eating that one does when you are not really hungry, but you are just thinking about something or worried about something. Let’s take the example of the start of school. The kids have to get the morning routine back on track, and everything feels like it is a battle just to get out the door.
It becomes so easy to go through a drive-thru for the comfort food of a scone and caramel latte rather than eating that healthy breakfast. Then, there’s homework at the end of the day. As you are encouraging everyone to get homework done, you find yourself craving that sleeve of Oreos just to make yourself feel better about the nagging feeling that happens as you mull over the quadratic equation with your child.
Ways to Stop Stress Eating (Or At Least Control It!)
So what can you do instead of stress eating? One strategy is to do what I call “Stop and Take Notice.”
- When you are getting ready to reach for the comfort food to feed the stress, STOP and pay attention to what is happening right at the time you are reaching for the Oreos.
- Evaluate: Are you really hungry, or are you reacting to stress?
- Choose an alternative activity instead of eating. You can take a short walk, listen to music, talk to a friend or read a book.
- Spend at least 15 minutes doing something else BESIDES eating when that craving hits.
- If you are still hungry after the 15 minutes, have a healthy snack, such as a piece of fruit or string cheese.
- Remember to drink your water as well!
By paying attention to when you are really hungry, you will reduce your stress-eating behaviors and make better choices. Enjoy the fall and relax, and take comfort in knowing you can control stress eating!
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Stacy Waldron, PhD
Stacy Waldron, PhD, is a licensed psychologist at Bryan Counseling Center. She provides treatment for individuals of all ages and specializes in working with adolescents and adults.